On June 11, 1939, Irene Larkins (sometimes spelled Larkin) and her grandson, Tom Parker, left for a trip to California on the "Challenger." Irene kept a diary of her travels. At 5:15 p.m., the whole family saw Irene and Tommy off at the train depot in Sandusky. The first night, they traveled through Toledo,Elkhart, and arrived in Chicago at 10 p.m. Irene wrote that Tommy was "thrilled to the sky." They sent a telegram to Irene's daughter Doris, and ate at a restaurant in Chicago.
While on the train, they visited the lounge car, where Irene could smoke a cigarette. They wrote letters on "Challenger" stationery. Many days, Irene included what they ate at their meals. On Monday, June 12, while traveling through Omaha, Nebraska, Irene had orange juice and bran with cream, and "very fine coffee." In Utah, Tom and Irene saw the Great Salt Lake and caught a glimpse of the Temple and the Capital Building. They enjoyed the view of the mountains. While going through the desert, it was very hot, even though the railroad cars were air conditioned. Irene passed the time playing rummy with a Mr. Terrell. Later a group, including an aviator from Alabama, a Dr. Rieger, and a German refugee, enjoyed scotch and sodas and sang songs. Irene wrote that they all felt merry!
Family friends named Grace and Mildred met Irene and Tommy at the train station in Los Angeles. While in California, Irene and Tommy got to go inside the studios of 20th Century Fox, as a family friend was employed there. They walked down Hollywood Boulevard, and saw the footprints of many movie stars. Tommy got to swim in the ocean. Of course they went to many "picture shows" while in California. One day they took a boat ride on a glass bottomed boat, and watched the diver swim right under the boat. On June 28, Irene and Tommy went to Forest Lawn Cemetery, where they saw th "Wee Kirk o' the Heather" and "The Little Church of Flowers."
Doris, Steen, and Grandpa Larkins wrote letters to Irene and Tommy while they were in California. By July 5, Tom and Irene were both getting homesick. Later that week, they traveled from southern California to San Francisco, where they saw freighters from all over the world. On July 11, 1939, they boarded the train for the long trip home. In Montana, they saw cowboys dressed in satin. On July 14, Irene made her last entry in her diary of her trip to California. They ate breakfast in North Dakota, and saw Native Americans in their traditional dress. Irene and Tommy had dinner in Minnesota, and noticed that the scenery was beginning to look more like Ohio, with scenes of corn fields and lakes.
While we don't know the details of the rest of the trip home to Ohio, it was wonderful to read the day to day activities of Irene and Tommy's train trip west in 1939. In a few short years, Irene would lose both her beloved father and her daughter, and America would go to War! I am sure that her travel diary provided her with good memories during those turbulent times in the early 1940's.
Below is a picture of Irene and Tommy aboard the G.A. Boeckling, on their way to Cedar Point in 1937. They were great traveling pals!